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When autumn turns into winter in Maycomb County, Scout and Jem plan to create a snowman. This is an example of how their innocence is retained towards the beginning. Jem and Scout shape the snowman: “Jem glanced at me, his eyes twinkling: ‘Mr. Avery’s sort of shaped like a snowman, ain’t he?”’(67) The tone of this quotation suggests that the children are delighted and naive. After creating their snowman, Jem and Scout witness Miss Maudie’s house getting burnt down: “We stood watching the street fill with men and cars while fire silently devoured Miss Maudie’s house.”(69) This damages their innocence in several ways. Because Scout and Jem are children, they have not yet experienced a traumatizing event. After watching the destruction of Miss Maudie’s house, the children are in shock with parts of their innocence lost: “It’s gone, ain’t it?” moaned Jem.” This leads them to realize that not everything will last.
One day, Jem and Scout decide to go hunting for a small rodent with guns until Jem focuses on something in the road. Jem reveals he was looking at Maycomb’s pet, Tim Johnson. Scout and Jem race home to tell Calpurnia his condition and Calpurnia frantically calls every neighbor. Mr. Heck Tate, the sheriff of Maycomb, forces Atticus to shoot the dog instead because he feels he is not qualified to do so: “Mr. Tate almost threw the rifle at Atticus. ‘I’d feel mighty comfortable if you did now,’ he said,”(96) The dog portrays the town’s thinking that only Atticus is the only person who can help deter the town and his children from prejudice. Mr. Heck Tate also notifies Atticus about the mob for Tom Robinson’s arrival: “…movin’ him to the county jail tomorrow,” Mr. Tate was saying, “I don’t look for any trouble, but I can’t guarantee there won’t be any….”(145) Mr. Heck Tate warns Atticus because he knows Atticus will defend Tom, just like he knows that Atticus will shoot the dog to defend his children.
Many events occur throughout the novel that highlight the racial inequality in Maycomb. One of the most significant events is the trial of Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping and beating a 19-year-old white woman named Mayella Ewell. Although evidence implies that Tom Robinson is innocent, the town still votes him guilty: “Judge Taylor was polling the jury: ‘Guilty…guilty…guilty….guilty…’”(211) Tom Robinson is voted guilty only because it is a white person’s word against a black person’s. Another event is when Aunt Alexandra requested that Calpurnia be removed from their home to Atticus. When Scout asks Atticus if she can visit Calpurnia’s house, Aunt Alexandra replies for Atticus by saying, “You may not” (84) Because Aunt Alexandra is a woman with traditional and conservative values, she treats Calpurnia harshly and with zero respect.
The difference in moral education can be seen in many different examples in the book. Atticus Finch, Jem and Scout’s father, always teaches the two to be respectful to African Americans. For example, after Cecil Jacobs and Scout fight, Scout asks Atticus if he defends black people while using a derogatory term. Atticus replies, “Of course I do. Don’t say n*****, Scout. That’s common.”(75) Atticus tells Scout not to call them a demeaning word because he cares for and supports racial equality and wants Scout to be raised with sympathy and empathy instead of prejudice and blind animosity like the rest of Maycomb County.
As Jem and Scout grow up, their views on Boo Radley change. In the beginning, they determine that Boo is someone monstrous and evil by listening to rumors: “Jem gave a reasonable description of Boo: Boo was about six-and-a-half feet tall, judging from his tracks; he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch, that’s why his hands were bloodstained– if you ate an animal raw, you could never wash the blood off.”(13) Considering Jem and Scout were very young, they most likely saw Boo as a lurking demon waiting to murder them based on their rumors and imagination. Although Jem, Scout, and occasionally Dill disturbs Boo’s silence, he still leaves them presents and mends Dill’s pants. As time passes, they slowly get rid of the fear surrounding the Radley house. After Bob Ewell attacks Jem and Scout, Boo shows up at the Finch’s house. Although Boo Radley was an outcast of the racist, ignorant society of Maycomb and faced multitudes of false assertions, the innocence of his heart saved the children from Bob by tackling him. After the event, Scout finally sees the good in Boo Radley and walked him home properly: “‘Mr. Arthur, bend your arm down here, like that. That’s right, sir.’ I slipped my hand into the crook of his arm.”(278) Scout is no longer apprehensive towards Booboo the Radley and now treats him with respect.
Bravery is one of the hidden themes of To Kill A Mockingbird. One example is when Atticus shoots the mad dog. when Atticus defends Tom Robinson, Bob Ewell throws threats of violence at Atticus: “It was Miss Stephanie’s pleasure to tell us: this morning Mr. Bob Ewell stopped Atticus on the post office corner, spat in his face, and told him he’d get him if it took the rest of his life. ‘I wish Bob Ewell wouldn’t chew tobacco,’ was all Atticus said about it.”(217) Although Atticus teaches Jem and Scout to be brave, they believe they are courageous for immature reasons, like touching the Radley house. The children strongly dislike Mrs. Dubose and are doubtful about her correlation to bravery until Atticus explains her fight against her morphine addiction: “You rarely win, but sometimes you do. Mrs. Dubose won, all ninety-eight pounds of her. According to her views, she died beholden to nothing and nobody. She was the bravest person I ever knew.”(112) Even though she knew she would ultimately pass away, Atticus saw it as a true sign of bravery that the children had yet to encounter. Bob Ewell is the biggest example of cowardice in the book. He is untruthful in the courtroom for the sake of defending his ego and attacks mere children as a revenge to make himself feel more masculine.
Atticus Finch, lawyer and father of Jem and Scout, believes all men are equal in the courtroom. He also believes racial equality will grow in the courtroom. Although Atticus is a lawyer, he understands situations where the law must be bent; for example, the Ewells hunting and trapping out of season: ”It’s against the law, all right,’ said my father, ‘and it’s certainly bad, but when a man spends his relief checks on green whiskey his children have a way from crying from hunger pains.”(31) Atticus and the town authority know that if Bob “Ew” Ewell was stopped from hunting out of season, his children would starve. Another example is the incident where Boo Radley protects Jem and Scout from Bob Ewell and murdered him. Although he should be put on trial, Heck Tate and Atticus understand that Boo should not encounter the public because of the town’s prejudice and easy ability to believe rumors. Heck Tate says, “I may not be much, Mr. Finch, but I’m still sheriff of Maycomb County and Bob Ewell fell on his knife. Good night, sir.”(276) Albeit arguing with a strong defense, Atticus finally gives in. Both examples are necessary reasons to bend the law.
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